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Review: Mini Lazarillo

A review of Mini Lazarillo, a minimal digital edition of Lazarillo de Tormes, created by Susanna Allés-Torrent, Alex Gil, Armando León, Falls Kennedy, Fiona Kibblewhite, and Taewan Shim

Published onMay 02, 2020
Review: Mini Lazarillo
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Project
Mini Lazarillo

Project Team
Susanna Allés-Torrent, “Minimal Editions” Instructor, University of Miami
Alex Gil, “Minimal Editions” Instructor, Columbia University
Armando León, Web Developer, Columbia University
Falls Kennedy, XML Markup Specialist, Barnard College
Fiona Kibblewhite, Project Manager, Columbia University
Taewan Shim, Cartographer, Columbia University

Project URL
https://minilazarillo.github.io/

Project Reviewer
Gimena del Rio Riande, Seminario de Edicion y Crítica Textual of the National Scientific and Technical Research Council (CONICET)


Project Overview

Susanna Allés-Torrent and Alex Gil

The Mini Lazarillo project is a pedagogical experiment we undertook in the Department of Latin American and Iberian Cultures at Columbia University during Spring 2016. The main goal was to introduce students to the full stack of skills needed to create a simple digital edition according to MLA Guidelines for Editors of Scholarly Editions. The text, Lazarillo de Tormes, was chosen based on the relevance of the work (founding literary work of the picaresque genre in Spain), the relevance of the story for students (it narrates the misadventures of a young man), and the ecdotical and textual tradition of the text (multiple extant early editions from the 16th century). While we, as course instructors, guided the general workflow of the project, the main responsibility of the digital project was handed to the students. To organize this work, they chose roles reflected in the project team list, such as “project manager,” “web developer,” “XML markup specialist,” and “cartographer.”

When creating the project, we had three main theoretical axes: ethical, technological, and scholarly.[1] First, we think digital humanities should be conceived from the ethical and minimal perspective, so that anyone, despite lack of funding or other constraints, should be able to undertake and execute a digital scholarly project. The creation of Ed., a Jekyll template for digital editions, used in this course was precisely one possible solution.[2] Second, our use of technology focused on free and standard web services and technologies and on the idea of transparency; we made available all datasets, scripts, and even the infrastructure (in our case on GitHub). It is worth noting, however, that while the technical costs are low, technical barriers to entry increase and the cost of labor remains consistent. Third, the art of editing needs to be rooted in a scholarly paradigm and a critical approach to primary sources. Therefore, the project offers three different versions of the text: a reading edition, an annotated edition, and a facsimile edition. Complementing the text, the project includes a section on historical contextualization, a map of places mentioned in Lazarillo, a search option, and documentation of the technologies used.

The team used GitHub as a repository and collaboration space and used GitHub Pages to publish the edition online. The Jekyll Ed. theme was customized for the project using HTML, CSS, and Javascript. We also used balloon.css for the the bubble annotations, which imported TEI elements about characters and places; odyssey.js for the creation of the map; and Lunr.js for the search engine. The team encoded the texts in TEI, which we transformed into Markdown using an XSLT script (the Jekyll template requires Markdown format).

The audience is twofold: pedagogical and scholarly. Mini Lazarillo serves as a resource for teaching, both for students and faculty. Additionally, it showcases the possibility of using minimal computing infrastructure for an editing project. We hope that the example of Mini Lazarillo opens up new venues for low-cost publication under significant constraints.

[1] See the abstract submitted for the 2016 Digital Humanities Conference in Krakow, Poland: https://dh2016.adho.org/abstracts/412.

[2] See the Ed. theme for Jekyll: https://elotroalex.github.io/ed/.


Project Review

Gimena del Rio Riande

The Mini Lazarillo project was a pedagogical experiment undertaken by Susanna Allés-Torrent of the Department of Latin American and Iberian Cultures at Columbia University with her colleague Alex Gil from Columbia Libraries during Spring 2016. Its main goal was to introduce students to skills needed to create a digital scholarly edition and to the principles of minimal computing or “computing done under some technological constraints.”[1] Allés-Torrent and Gil chose a founding literary work of the picaresque genre in Spain, the anonymous 16th century novella La vida de Lazarillo de Tormes y de sus fortunas y adversidades.

The humanistic claims of the project align the technological with the scholarly. Digital editing and publishing, in the project, is conceived from an open, equitable, and minimal perspective. This means that anyone, including those with a lack of funding, could potentially learn the technological skills to execute a digital scholarly project. The project was designed to emphasize collaboration with students; project development was handled by the students, who chose different roles to undertake, such as “project manager,” “web developer,” “XML markup specialist,” and “cartographer.”

Use of technology in the project is equally aligned with the idea of open and collaborative practices. This is evident in the publication of the edition itself; in the availability of datasets, scripts, and the project infrastructure on GitHub, a collaborative version control site that is commonly used to host open source projects; and in the use of GitHub Pages to publish the texts online. The site template also reflects open and collaborative choices; the Ed/Jekyll template designed by Gil, along with Allés-Torrent, Terry Catapano and Johann Guillium, was customized by the students deploying HTML, CSS, and Javascript. The Mini Lazarillo can be accessed online in two different versions: a reading edition and a facsimile edition. Complementing the text, a historical contextualization section, a search option, and a bibliography are offered. The map of places within the text, however, is currently down.

These important interventions aside, it bears mentioning that while the texts were encoded using the standard for digital scholarly editions — the TEI markup — the encoding had to be transformed into Markdown through an XSLT script, as the Jekyll template uses only Markdown. This approach, therefore, is quite different than the standard publishing practices of digital scholarly editions.

Allés-Torrent presented the project in a minimal computing workshop at the Second International Conference of the Asociación Argentina de Humanidades Digitales (AAHD) in Buenos Aires, Argentina in 2016.[2] Scholars felt empowered by the possibility of working autonomously on their own editions, and minimal computing was understood as a solution for the development of projects in the Global South, where access to infrastructure such as web hosting or even reliable and affordable Internet access is almost non-existent for humanities students and faculty. Currently, projects undertaken at HD CAICYT Lab (CONICET, Argentina) use minimal computing and GitHub-based solutions for digital scholarly editions, and a minimal edition course will be taught in a joint initiative between the University of Maryland (USA) and the Universidad del Salvador (Argentina) in 2020.[3]

The Mini Lazarillo thus serves as a good example of the activities of the Global Outlook::Digital Humanities Minimal Computing Working Group and the Ed/Jekyll team. Minimal computing, in this project, operates both through technical infrastructure and as a shared set of values: use of open and equitable technologies, shared ownership of data and code, and a collaborative DIY approach. In that sense, a project initially developed in the North has successfully engaged audiences from the South, raising awareness about the different kinds of digital humanities around the world.

[1] Minimal Computing Working Group, “About,” https://go-dh.github.io/mincomp/about/.

[2] See https://susannalles.github.io/workshops/edicion-con-Jekyll.html.

[3] See http://hdlab.space/La-Argentina-Manuscrita/ and https://globalmaryland.umd.edu/content/welcome-global-classrooms.

Editors’ Note: We are pleased to report that the issue with the map identified by the reviewer has been corrected by the project team.

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